Inside Column: Finding friends in high places

by Marian Daniells, News Staff

Marian Daniells
Marian's Musings

I met one of the most intriguing people this weekend and I never even got her name.
But her daughter’s name is Jennifer, they hiked a glacier together in Alaska and are huge Bon Jovi fans. Her husband died this past year, she loves Snickers and she works as an aid for a bunch of young kids in juvie. She also recently overcame her fear of airplanes, lucky for me.
I was on my way back from an incredible Spring Break and planned to tackle the work I hadn’t finished (this column included). But somehow, this stranger prompted me to adjust my priorities, to put aside my work and talk for the duration of a three-hour flight.
I’m a pro at procrastinating. I can Facebook and StumbleUpon my little heart out, but I think this situation was different. What started as simple small talk turned into a conversation that I’ve thought about for days after.
The truth is, there is something strong about the human connection; how people are instinctively drawn to each other. This strong woman, who is 40 years my senior and who I will never meet again, touched my heart in a unique way.
She was on her way to Denver to meet her daughter and treat her to a Bon Jovi concert. I was returning from a trip to Napa where I surprised my mother and went with her to a Wailin’ Jennys concert.
She visited her daughter in Alaska and hiked a glacier. I hiked the Grand Canyon with my mother.
Music brings her closer to the ones she loves. Music has forever been a string tying me to my family.
She is learning how to be an optimistic single and independent widow. I am learning how to support myself when I’m 3,000 miles from home.
Everybody loves Snickers.
She helps teach first-through-third graders in a juvenile detention center. I have a mother who used to be a teacher and a brother who frequented the system.
Her recently-deceased husband was terrified of flying. She was on her fourth flight, having the time of her life. A travel veteran, I love the freedom of the air and the idea that the entire world is accessible.
And somehow, the cosmic powers-that-be brought us to seats 4E and 4F of Southwest flight 768 to Denver.
Public transportation is unsettling sometimes in the ways it breaks down typical social norms and forces people to interact. In a jet with 150 passengers, there’s no such thing as a personal bubble. To compensate, people sleep, stare out the window, or avoid talking to someone they’re physically touching.
But when they do talk, they can learn to connect with other people on a deeper level. I connected with this woman largely because we shared many experiences. She felt as passionate about her daughter as I did about my mom. And though she had recently lost her husband, she had an unlimited supply of love.
It’s kind of bizarre, really, that connection between two strangers can teach someone more about themselves, inspire someone to be more spontaneous, or even prompt a column in a paper.
We all have our priorities. Technically, I should have spent the duration of that flight writing assignments and studying for a sociology exam. But sometimes life just tends to surprise us in the most unexpected of ways, leading us to people who make us smile.
As I may have mentioned before, I am a travel junkie. I love flying and I love the butterfly feeling of being in a foreign city. I love the rich chocolate-y sound of foreign languages. Traveling opens so many doors, but it also opens several opportunities to reach out and touch the world.
I realize that this hardly relates to music or movies or books – those things we Inside columnists normally go on about. But let it serve as a challenge. It’s often the little moments in life that count and I challenge everyone to create those little moments.
Wear shorts in this freakish beautiful weather, smile at a stranger on the street or talk to the person next to you on your flight. Everyone on that plane is headed somewhere and has some story to tell. Just be sure to get their names.

– Marian Daniells can be reached at [email protected].

More to Discover